In fighting games, playing a grappler character often means you’ve made a choice to go against the grain. As fun as grapplers look, you’re deliberately rejecting a lot of the rules and tools the rest of the game’s roster has out of the box. The pay-off can be glorious, but getting there is an uphill battle. That’s especially true when you’re playing a game like Granblue Fantasy Versus, an “anime fighter” that prizes speed and execution compared to its more methodical rivals. But while Arc Systems Works games don’t make things easy for grappling fans, the rewards for your patience and tenacity are often greater than anywhere else. Enter Ladiva, who I am officially labeling the new People’s Champion. Despite how rough it can be, especially if you’re a casual or more mid-tier player, Ladiva is one of the best characters to ever sport the SPD.
Ladiva is amazing. She’s big, she’s beautiful, and she’s beardly. Every movement she makes reeks of swagger, and she even wears her championship belt in the middle of a fight. That’s at least ten pounds of gold, folks, and she’s cruising around like it’s a normal belt. Naturally, Ladiva comes with all the moves you’d expect from an explicit wrestler or a grapple character. She has a sick basement dropkick, a flying crossbody, a physics-defying Michinoku Driver, a massive legdrop, a nearly screen-length lariat, and several large slam maneuvers. Her moveset would make most hoss wrestlers extremely jealous.
Ladiva also has a babyface button. If you do her normal command grab (SPD), you can press one of two buttons as a follow-up. If you time it right, just as the Earth shatters from the new World’s Strongest Slam, Ladiva will pop up and, like a diva, she’ll strike a pose and call out to the crowd. You can’t see the crowd, but Ladiva makes sure you know it’s there. And speaking of crowds, Ladiva also has the greatest finishing super in all of fighting game grappling history. It’s seriously the greatest thing I’ve ever seen, and that’s no small feat considering Android 16’s “Rekka” SPDs are a thing in Super Dragon Ball Z.
As you can see in her character trailer, not only does Ladiva summon a whole ring, but a referee shows up as well. This ref, complete with bad haircut, goofy facial hair, and a classic striped shirt, leaps to the mat and goes for the three count, sweat dripping down his feeble brow. A timer ticks down (shades of Hokuto no Ken, yo). If you’ve done enough damage to get the three, that’s the finish, brother. If not, your opponent actually kicks out at like 2.9 and the fight continues. It’s brilliant.
Ladiva has her problems, as I alluded to in the introduction. It’s super hard to approach your opponent, especially if you’re dealing with someone like Metera. Quick, zippy characters are tough too, as Ladiva has big, meaty moves (and muscles) that take some time to start and more time to recover. Her worst matchups seem to be Metera and Charlotta for exactly those reasons.
Ladiva has tools, such as a long-distance guard-breaker and projectile-proof headbutt, but you’ll typically be playing a waiting game. Defense is key, and having enough of a command on her moveset for big punishments is mandatory. That said, even when I found myself clearly outmatched in ranked fights as a beginning scrublord, even if I lost, it was so satisfying to land a big sequence and have my opponent completely off-tilt for the rest of the round. And for that, Ladiva easily earns the title of People’s Champion.
Granbue Fantasy Versus will launch on the PlayStation 4 on March 3, 2020, and the PC on March 13.